As you start and continue to run your business you develop acquaintances along the way. No one creates a successful business alone. You will need help in order for your business to succeed or even just to survive. One of the acquaintances you really need to develop a close relation with is your supplier. For one without the products they supply to your business your business will stop running. Besides this your suppliers can do this for you:
One of the biggest thing your supplier can do for you is to give you a line of credit when you are short of funds. There are many businesses that exist from 1 big order to the next. They need temporary injection of large capitals to enable them to fulfil their orders. This is especially true for small businesses just starting out.
Banks for example are suppliers of capital. Many businesses apply loans to them so they can start or continue to run their businesses. A bank could be a powerful ally and support you in times when you really need funding. They also have the power to stop giving you loans to run your business under your contract with them. It pays to be friendly to your bank lender.
There are other times when your supplier may voluntarily give you a line of credit. My mom used to run a small grocery store and would take me with her to see our suppliers. There would be times when her supplier would offer her a line of credit without her asking. This may be due to the fact that we are regular customers, buys a lot, friendly and never ask for credit.
This may be a ploy on the part of our suppliers to increase their business by letting us increase our business as well but as you can see they are looking at 3 things namely: we are loyal to them, we are selling their products to them and they like our personalities. If my mother has lacked any of these I do not think they would voluntarily offer us a line of credit.
Do not think suppliers are only those business acquaintances that supply capital and physical goods. Online businesses also use suppliers. Freelance contractors for example are suppliers of digital content like writers. If you have a blog business for example they may cut their rates or defer being paid and still write for you when times are rough for your blog business.
Your suppliers can also prioritise you above their other clients if supplies for their products are low and there is a big demand for them. For example we know who among our regular clients will buy our products everyday without fail and we keep a regular supply for them. A new buyer might want to buy them but we do not sell to it to them so as not to fail our regular customers.
If your supplier cannot supply you they may introduce you to other suppliers who may supply you instead. These suppliers are not selfish. When they introduce you to new suppliers they take the risk of losing you as client.
Suppliers can also advise you on better products to use instead of just maintaining the status quo and keep supplying you with products which may not be the best products you should use. This shows that your suppliers care for you.
They may also advise you about competitors in your business especially if they are a threat to you. For example a competitor could be badmouthing you to others without you knowing about it. Your supplier could know about this badmouthing campaign of your competitor and could warn you.
They may also provide you with industry knowledge. For example they may know the off seasons due to the low demand on their products. They may know locations were there is great demand for your products based on their sales figures of these locations.
They may also help startups. For example our soda suppliers supplied us with chillers when our grocery store was just starting out. They installed billboards in our store to help us promote our business. You should ask your suppliers if they help startups and if they do ask them what kind of assistance they provide. Often you need to ask your suppliers and also prove that you are worth their assistance.
What can you do to have good relations with your supplier and preferably get better treatment? Loyalty to your supplier is important. This means not straying away from them if you just get slightly better deals with a competitor who may just be baiting you to get your business. There may be times also when you have to advance payment to them when they need financial help.
Be reasonable with your discount and product demands or they may leave you. It is natural to want better terms from anyone including your supplier. We usually want the cheapest price but the highest quality for our supplies. There are no easy answers to how one negotiates but your main goal in your negotiations should be for the mutual benefit of you and your suppliers.
There may be times when your supplier will have unforeseen scheduling problems and might slightly delay their delivery of your products to you. Give them enough allowance in time like this and do not unnecessarily force them or even penalise them. Someday you may be on the receiving end of things and would require their understanding and patience for your business.
This should be a no brainer. You should pay your suppliers promptly. There are nasty people who treat their suppliers as if they hold their client in their hands because they are the ones providing them with business. If someday these business are in the receiving end of things then they might not enjoy how their suppliers lack sympathy for them when they most need it.
Recommend your suppliers to friendly competitors and friends you know. They may return the favour to you and do the same to your business with their friendly competitors and friends. By doing this you prove to them that you are a valuable ally and not just a business partner.
If you can do it develop a real social relationship with them and even invite them for example to your own personal events. A little social talk could go along the way in breaking the ice with your supplier. You might sincerely ask how a supplier is doing when you meet them. They might need cheering up that day and a little chit chat might be all they need to cheer themselves.
Though you are loyal to a few suppliers do not fail to have backup suppliers as well. Explain to them that you are loyal to some of your suppliers for a reason like these suppliers were your first contacts in the business. Tell them that should they get your business in the future they can also expect the same level of loyalty.
As can be seen there are a lot of things your supplier can provide you which may be advantageous to your business especially during critical times. They may go beyond the terms of your contracts with them and risk helping you make your business a success or to just let it survive. However you must prove to your suppliers that you are worthy of their help.